Around the World in 80 Bites

The first time we did Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, we did it wrong.

We went on the first day of the festival in 2015 but it was the last day of our trip. There were 12 of us, we all got there at different times, we were all exhausted, it was raining and we had no plan. We purposely saved snack credits on our dining plan to use up frivolously on food from around the world and I had grand plans of sharing small plates so we could taste as much as possible.

That did not happen.

Lines were long. There wasn’t anyone to share with because we were all over the place and on our own timelines. We were dodging downpours every half hour. Eventually, we caught up with everyone else but by then, we were pretty much ready for the day to be over. And I vowed the next time I went to Food and Wine, that I would be prepared.

And I was.

Since we now live near Disney World and hold annual passes, we’ve been able to partake in the festival twice so far. I did my research. I made a list. I grabbed a map. I ate and I drank and, since there’s still a few weeks left, I am not done.

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Because I often enjoy a boozy beverage, I made sure our first stop included both food and wine. Well, food and sake.

In Japan, we shared Teriyaki Ginger Pork and sipped on a Pom Pineapple Sake cocktail. I like sake, but this was extremely sweet and even though it’s a very small sample-sized drink, it was about all I could handle. The pork, however, was fabulous. It comes on the bone, but it melts right off. It was sticky and sweet and I could have eaten 5 of them.

The second night we went, I got the Salmon BLT Sushi Roll. They are 2 HUGE rolls that are heavy on the L and T and very light on the salmon. The flavor was great but the execution and eatability was a bit disappointing. I redeemed the food by hopping over to Kubuki Café, the permanent Japan booth (meaning, you can get these items outside of festival dates), and had a Coconut Pineapple Sake Mist—a very delicious adult shaved iced.

Now, because it’s World Showcase, we have some favorites that needed to be had, despite all the extra choices. So while Corey and Penny had their French ice cream, I waited in line for the F&W version of the Grey Goose slush—La Passion Martini Slush (Vodka, Grey Goose Le Citron, Cranberry and Passion Fruit Juice). It was pretty fabulous, but I prefer the slightly less sweet original. It was a bit sweet to pair with the Boeuf Bourguignon, but I did it anyway. The cab sav braised beef was served with the creamiest mashed potatoes in the world. Overall, France was worth the long lines.

At this point, it started raining and we headed back to Future World to get out of the elements for a bit and take the kiddo on some rides but once we returned to World Showcase, after spending quality time and Elsa and Anna and basically walking onto Frozen Ever After, we stopped in Italy before Illuminations started. Corey loves him some calamari and I love me an Italian margarita, so we ordered one of each and settled in to watch the show. (He has since had the calamari with pomodoro sauce twice more—it’s that good.)

Our second trip, we were not as lucky with the rain and therefore the lines were outrageous. So even though my list of things to try was still pretty long, I could only check a couple things off. This time, we started at the booths set up near Innoventions rather than World Showcase.

Corey wanted barbecue and I wanted a beer, so we stopped at Flavors From Fire for Piggy Wings (Korean BBQ pork bites) and an Orlando Brewery Smokin’ Blackwater Porter. This was a terrible pairing (the pork was too sweet for the heavy beer) but they were both very good on their own. And, like the pork in Japan, I could have eaten several more servings.

PSA: most, if not all, booths have a recommended beverage pairing for one of their food items. You definitely don’t have to follow the suggestion but for the best flavor experience, it’s probably best. 😉

We ventured over to Coastal Eats and Earth Eats and shared 3 dishes, 2 of which I would definitely recommend. The Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip from Earth Eats was a bowl of gooey, buttery, garlicky goodness to be sopped up with sourdough toast. The Grilled Beef Skewer from Coastal Eats was also fantastic. It’s served over a bed of romaine, apricots and feta and has a distinct Mediterranean flavor. I would pass on ordering the Ricotta Zucchini Ravioli again. The ravioli itself was good but the tomato sauce was far too sweet for my liking.

A little further down the way is the Wine and Dine Studio where you can get wine flights and cheese plates and it was the booth I was looking most forward to. The Artist Palette is is a fantastic deal at $11.25 for a Trio of Artisan Cheese (Fromager Affirois de Excellence served with toasted Baguette, Point Reyes Original Blue served with Apricot Jam, Point Reyes Toma served with Honey) paired with a trio of wines (Round Pond Estate Sauvignon Blanc, St. Francis Chardonnay and Recuerdo Malbec). The cheeses were so good, even Penny like them! And she requested an Uncrustable for dinner that night, so she’s normally pretty hard to please.

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I feel pretty good about how we’ve been going about the festival this time around. It definitely helps that we live here and can take it in slowly but if you just want to include it in a trip and have to squeeze it in among a million other plans, I have a few suggestions.

One, plan ahead. Sure, you can wing it but there’s one big problem with that: there’s just too many choices! Look at the menus and booths ahead of time and make a list of what you really want to try. The menu board placement as you’re walking along isn’t always conducive to stopping and staring, so make sure to grab a passport or map at the beginning and use that as your guide.

Two, go early and, if at all possible, during the week. Our two trips have both been Saturday nights and lines are long. Evenings at Epcot are generally crowded with inebriated adults, even more so on the weekends. If you want to be able to leisurely stroll through World Showcase, go earlier and make a day of it. Yes, people still drink during the day but you’ll mostly be able to avoid bachelor/bachelorette parties, 21st birthdays and stumbling drunks if you go during daylight hours on a Tuesday.

Three, share. The prices are reasonable ($4-$10 for most food options and, depending on the spirit, drinks can run from $5 up to $15) but to get the most bang for your buck, share bites and taste more. You can use snack credits from the Disney Dining Plan on most food items and all booths accept cash, credit and Disney Gift Cards. You can even load up a limited edition gift card lanyard at any of the F&W merchandise booths and have a quick, convenient payment method for your excursion.

In conclusion, eat, drink and be merry. This is definitely a festival worth checking out!

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